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Closed May 23, 2015

A dazzling spectacle, ambitious and triumphant, a sure-fire hit

The Telegraph

Why See Oppenheimer?

The race to create the bomb - but at what cost?

It seems quite fitting with today's bleak political climate that Tom Morton-Smith's new offering with the Royal Shakespeare Company is set within the fraught heart of the Manhattan Project. This new play, directed by Angus Jackson, explores the tension between the scientific advances that shaped man's understanding of the universe against the justification of using nuclear weapons in wartime - together these reveal the personal cost of making history, for better or for worse.

What is it about?

The year is 1939 and fascism is on the march across Europe; meanwhile, General Franco is advancing on Barcelona, and in Germany, two chemists have just discovered how to create atomic fission. On the other side of the world in Berkeley, California, a harried group theoretical physicists realise the full horror of what this means. If the Germans are successful in weaponising nuclear energy, such a weapon that draws its power from the very building blocks of the universe has the potential to destroy America. Cue the the ambitious and charismatic J. Robert Oppenheimer, who quickly finds himself in charge of spearheading the largest scientific undertaking in all of human history; to create the first nuclear weapon before the Germans do.

A troubled man who often neglected his health when engaged in deep thought, he faces subtle anti-Semitism at work, is constantly having affairs with other women outside his marriage, and is involved in Communist activity; as a result, he struggles to cast off his radical past and once in a position power and authority, he heads the race to win the 'battle of the laboratories' and create the weapon to end not just the Second World War, but all wars thereafter. Later after its successful deployment, he and his fellow scientists must reconcile themselves with the cost that the atomic bomb has presented in their quest to make America invincible.

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Additional Information


Previews from: 27 March 2015

Opening night: 31 March 2015


Suitable for ages 12+
Recommended for students and fans of Second World War History!

Run time

Two hours and 40 minutes, with one interval

Cast and Creative


John Heffernan as J.Robert Oppenheimer


Written by Tom Morton-Smith
Directed by Angus Jackson
Designed by Robert Innes Hopkins
Lighting by Paul Anderson
Music by Grant Olding
Sound by Christopher Shutt
Movement by Scott Ambler

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